Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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View Daryl Kramp Profile
CPC (ON)
Colleagues, welcome to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. This is meeting 74. Pursuant to the order of reference from May 6, we are doing clause by clause of Bill C-637, an act to amend the Criminal Code (firearms storage and transportation).
This is obviously a very brief bill. It's the chair's intention to go through the clause by clause on this and then go to committee business to discuss items that are outstanding and/or to see what we'll do with an agenda for either following actions and/or deliberations by the committee.
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
Mr. Chair, I would pull up my motion, which is on the—
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
Mr. Chair, I will move my motion. I think the clerk has copies. I was going to move it during the last three meetings, but I didn't want to take the time of the committee. It is an important motion.
My motion is as follows:
That the committee urgently invite Suzanne Legault, Information Commissioner of Canada, Bob Paulson, Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, to discuss the special report to Parliament by the Information Commissioner, tabled in Parliament on May 14, 2015, entitled An Investigation into an access to information request for the Long-gun Registry, and that the meeting be televised.
I move the motion, Mr. Chair. It would be really nice to have this motion on the table for our 75th meeting of this committee.
The reason for the motion is straightforward. The Information Commissioner has presented a case in which the government, through the Minister of Public Safety's office, and through the chain of command of the RCMP, committed a crime by way of destruction of government documents.
The key questions that have to be resolved are as follows. One, who within the Minister of Public Safety's office, Public Safety Canada, or the RCMP gave an—
View Roxanne James Profile
CPC (ON)
Sorry, I just put my hand up in order to be put on the speakers list. Thank you.
View Daryl Kramp Profile
CPC (ON)
Oh. Excuse me. My apologies.
Carry on, Mr. Easter.
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Who within the Minister of Public Safety's office, Public Safety Canada, or the RCMP gave and who received any instructions and orders to destroy the documents in question between May 2, 2012, the day the former Public Safety minister gave his assurance records would be retained, and October 25, 2012, the date the destruction of government documents commenced? It's clear, Mr. Chair, that this is a violation within the law.
The second question is, was the Office of the Commissioner of the RCMP aware of the commitment made by the previous minister of Public Safety in a letter to the Information Commissioner that “the RCMP will abide by the right of access described in section 4 of the Act and its obligations in that regard”? If so, if they were aware, why were the documents destroyed?
The other question would be—really, I think you could call it a “firewall”—was the firewall between political involvement and RCMP day-to-day operations broken?
The Information Commissioner stated the following, which I want to be placed on the record of this committee, in a letter submitted by the Information Commissioner to the Speakers of both chambers of Parliament on May 13, 2015. In a quote from that letter, her concerns were put directly:
On April 13, 2012, I wrote to the then Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the Honourable Vic Toews, to inform him that any records for which a request had been received under the Act were subject to the right of access and could not be destroyed until a response had been provided under the Act and any related investigation and court proceedings were concluded. Minister Toews responded on May 2, 2012 providing assurances that the RCMP would abide by the right of access described in section 4 of the Act. ...I also concluded that the RCMP destroyed records responsive to the request with the knowledge that these records were subject to the right of access guaranteed by subsection 4(1) of the Act. As a result, as well on March 26, 2015, I referred the matter to the Attorney General of Canada for possible obstruction of the right of access under section 67.1 of the Act. I have not received a response to this letter of referral. In order to preserve the rights of the complainant, pursuant to section 42 of the Act, I will also file a court application before the Federal Court.
She goes on to conclude by saying:
The proposed changes in Bill C-59 will deny the right of access of the complainant, it will deny the complainant's recourse in court and it will render null and void any potential liability against the Crown. Bill C-59 sets a perilous precedent against Canadians' quasi-constitutional right to know.
In the report itself, the Information Commissioner states the following, concluding with a specific course of action her office has taken:
The information and evidence obtained during the Information Commissioner's investigation has led her to conclude that the RCMP destroyed records responsive to the request with the knowledge that these records were subject to the right of access guaranteed by subsection 4(1) of the Act. In particular...that factual information relates to the elements of the offence set out in paragraph 67.1(1)(a)....
I'll not take the time to go through that, but to save time, Mr. Chair, I think that, simply put, the RCMP destroyed these records with the knowledge that they related to the outstanding access request as well as an ongoing investigation. The RCMP destroyed these records despite the Information Commissioner's letter dated April 13, 2012, to the Minister of Public Safety, copying the Commissioner of the RCMP, which clearly stated that these records are subject to the right of access guaranteed by the Access to Information Act and may not be destroyed until a response has been provided to the complainant and any related investigation and court proceedings are completed.
Based on the information that the Office of the Information Commissioner has gathered in the context of this investigation, the Information Commissioner is of the opinion that there is a possibility that an offence in contravention of section 67 of the act has been committed. As I said earlier, she has referred that matter to the Honourable Peter MacKay, Attorney General of Canada.
Mr. Chair, the government or law enforcement can't pick and choose the laws they want to enforce. The law is the law is the law, as people on this committee would know.
I will close, Mr. Chair, by adding the following from Ms. Legault's testimony before the access to information, privacy and ethics committee on May 25. In response to a question as to whether the retroactive application being used in the budget implementation act could be applied to make the $90,000 alleged bribe to Mike Duffy retroactively legal, the Information Commissioner stated the following:
I think that this retroactive application and the retroactive stripping of the application of the Access To Information Act is a perilous precedent. I think it could be used in any other file, of course.
There are two issues here, and we can't deal with one at this committee. One is the budget implementation act, in that it makes legal what was illegal at the time and takes that whole issue away by the retroactive amending of a law. As we are the public safety committee, I think it's important to us that the Information Commissioner, an officer of parliament, has alleged that the RCMP, our national police force, has violated the law.
Could there be political influence? I think possibly so. However, I would hope not, because there is supposed to be a firewall between day-to-day operations within the public safety minister's office and the RCMP.
However, Mr. Chair, the only way we can find that out is to invite the Information Commissioner of Canada, Suzanne Legault; Bob Paulson, the Commissioner of the RCMP; and Mr. Blaney, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to come before this committee and explain what happened. They're the ones who would be in the know. They're the ones between whom the conversations took place, if they did take place.
In any event, we do know that the information was destroyed. It's alleged to be a violation of the law, and I think we have a responsibility as the public safety committee to hear from those three folks and find out the facts.
I therefore move the motion.
Thank you very much.
View Daryl Kramp Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you very much, Mr. Easter.
Is there any further comment?
Ms. James.
View Roxanne James Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
We were aware of this motion coming to this committee. Of course, we reject any claim that the RCMP did anything wrong by getting rid of the long-gun registry. That was what parliament had voted for; it was this Conservative government that passed that legislation. To imply that the RCMP did anything wrong by following the will of parliament, I think is absolutely outrageous, for one thing.
Secondly, the public safety committee, this committee, was forwarded two pieces of the budget implementation act by the finance committee to study, which we did. The issue at hand, which Mr. Easter is referring to, is actually being studied in the finance committee.
I believe that the Information Commissioner is appearing at the finance committee today. I see that Mr. McCallum from the Liberal party might be here to replace Mr. Easter, and I'm assuming that Mr. Easter is probably going to head over to the finance committee to ask those very same questions. That is the appropriate place to do that because that committee is responsible for that portion of the budget implementation act.
I understand that the RCMP will also be appearing at the finance committee, so perhaps Mr. Easter can ask the RCMP why it followed the will of parliament. We are the body that legislates, enacts laws and measures, and the RCMP followed those. I think that's the appropriate place for Mr. Easter to head over to, and I assume that because Mr. McCallum is here, that will be occurring very shortly.
I will not be supporting Mr. Easter's motion for those reasons.
View Daryl Kramp Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you very much.
Mr. Garrison.
View Randall Garrison Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I think what we're presented with here is the problem of omnibus budget bills and the provisions dealing with the access to information and the long-gun registry. It probably should have been in a separate piece of legislation, which could have come to this committee for full study with full witnesses. Unfortunately, that's not the case, so I do agree with the parliamentary secretary that the government has chosen to send this through the finance committee, and that that is where the issue will be discussed. Nevertheless, I think it's still a useful motion because we all know that the finance committee does not have the expertise nor the time to give full consideration to this.
That brings us to the question of time. There are many things that we New Democrats think need to have been studied in this committee, and I can make a long list of things we could have brought forward today—the use of solitary confinement, the treatment of women and transgender and gender variant Canadians in corrections facilities, PTSD in the RCMP and the shocking rate of suicide among law enforcement officials, the problem of harassment in the RCMP—a whole list of things we could study. However, we have a process in this committee that gives priority to legislation. So unfortunately, or fortunately, we followed that process, and the legislative burden has kept this committee quite busy and didn't allow us to get to a lot of things we might have otherwise studied in this committee.
Again, I think this would be a useful session for us to have, but we recognize that there are many things this committee was not able to get to because of the legislative burden, and I think this is yet another example of those.
We will be supporting the motion.
View Daryl Kramp Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you very much.
Mr. Norlock.
View Rick Norlock Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
This is nothing but an obviously puerile, pathetic political move. What it's designed to do, quite frankly, is the following. As we approach an election, of course, somebody is trying to usurp the very important work this committee has to do, and that is to review legislation. This is parliamentary tradition in this country. This is the way this committee is set up.
My friend across the way says there are lots of other things we could study. There's no end to things we could study, but we are very much time limited in this Parliament, and I think what we need to do is get on with this.
Mr. Easter is great. He's been here 20-some years. He really knows how to pull political strings. He knows how to garner the limelight and how to get things in the limelight and to make accusations.
This committee is not a court. The Information Commissioner has done what she thinks is appropriate. He uses the right words when he says “alleges”. Every time somebody alleges something, if we're going to be sucked up into some kind of political move just to placate some people who want to score some points because they may not be doing well in the polls or something else, that's too bad. That's sad. But I won't be part of a political game.
We have legislation before this committee. Let's get on with it, and if we have time to study things appropriately before the end of the 41st Parliament, let's do it. But let's get on with the job at hand, and let Mr. Easter scurry over to the finance committee and do his tricks. Maybe the cameras will be on. He'll get a few minutes on the nightly news, to make an allegation that in the end will be moot, because the Supreme Court of Canada has said that Parliament is supreme. Parliament said destroy the records. The records are destroyed. End of story.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Daryl Kramp Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you very much, Mr. Norlock.
Ms. Ablonczy.
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